Forgive me Father, it’s been 16 days since my last funny blog post.

You cannot imagine the pressure I’ve been under lately.  Mind-boggling.  When a little unexpected cash came my way recently – legally I might add – I was thinking about what I should do with it.  I could have and should have put it towards some pretty stimulating expenses like the credit card, fixing the dishwasher and getting the carpets steam cleaned, but I really wanted to spend it on myself.  So I took a leap of faith and registered for the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in Dayton, Ohio.  I had been thinking of taking my writing to the next level by attending a writer’s workshop.  I realize that taking my writing to the next level might actually mean taking my writing to the recycle bin, but that’s ok.

So, now it’s been two weeks since I returned from the workshop and I haven’t written anything funny.  It’s causing me a great deal of stress and chardonnaiety.  The bar on Funny has been ratcheted up a few notches and I suddenly have Amuse-Anxiety.  Surely there is a support group for that?

Hi my name is Astra.  It’s been 16 days since I wrote something funny.

What if I post something and it’s not funny?  What if I get no cackles and snortles and get only a couple of ahems and smirks?  That’s simply not good enough for me anymore.  I’ve been Erma-lightened.  I’m good with Snarky but I need a little Side-Splitting Slapstick.

As I write this, I’m imagining the University of  Dayton scouring the blogs and books of us attendees to see if we actually learned anything.  I imagine they are slowly weeding out humour imposters in a devious plot to create a purer breed of humourist for the 2014 conference.  If  I don’t be Funny, they may stumble upon this one and I’ll be revealed.  I’ll be on the Not Funny list.  I don’t want to be on the Not Funny list.  No one who’s attended the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop wants to be on the Not Funny list.  It’s enough to make me turn a whiter shade of pinot grigio.

“So?  So? How was it?!” several friends and family members have asked me since my return.

Oh, God! Again, with the pressure?!

I’ve spent considerable amount of time these last two weeks reading all these outrageously funny blog posts of other conference attendees (now we’re talking not just the Funny list, but the Funny A-List) that had me peeing my pants … all over again.  I’m am writing every day, just like a good girl, though I’ve started at least a half dozen blog posts that have piddled out (smirk) before I find the proper finishing punch line.

And there’s Erma…

I’ve got this image of her over my desk for inspiration and yet when I look at it, all I imagine her saying is, “You really are at your wit’s end, aren’t you?”

I’m overwhelmed (you’ve probably realized that already – and the fact that I have an over-active imagination!), but I realize now that attending this conference was just part of setting my stage and I think it’s ok to have stage fright while doing that, right?  Who am I writing for anyway?  As Nancy Berk said, “Being in a room with 350 accomplished or aspiring humor writers can panic even the most confident.  Is there room for me?  The answer is – ‘Yes’ – if you use what you learn.”  I’m trying not to second guess myself too much when I recall Anna Lefler telling me to “…hone my craft, become a better writer and avoid premature e-publication.”  But most of all I am starting with Kyran Pittman‘s profoundly simple statement that I will take to heart:  “Real writers … write”.   So, I am gathering all their advice in the first of many steps in kick-starting my writing goals….

Just do it …

Of course the greatest of inspiration comes from Erma herself, “It is probably true that every person has a book in him fighting to get out.  What is crucial is that if something is going to happen, the wannabe writer has to commit by putting all those hopes and dreams on the line.  It’s time to stop talking about clever titles and get the book written.”

Thank you, Erma

and all those from whom I learned and by whom I was inspired at EBWW 2012

And now let’s move on to clever book titles…


31 Responses to Is there a name for the phobia of not being funny? The Burden of Bombeck…

  • “You really are at your wit’s end, aren’t you?” FAbulous! Let me just say this wonderful post assures your place at the table. Whatever table that is. SO happy to know you personally now.

    • Thank you Amy! I’m grateful to you, Linda and Barbara for taking me under your wing(s?). I may otherwise have sat closest to the exit door, just in case! Anxiously awaiting the launch of your new blog, friend!

  • Oh Astra, I just loved this! I am perpetually worried that there is a Not Funny List circulating around somewhere and my name is on it. I start reading other humour writers (like the incomprable Erma!) to try and light a spark when I’m feeling this way but then of course become paralyzed by their comedic brilliance which seems better than anything I could ever produce in this lifetime. I think it’s amazing that you went to the conference. I’ve been much too shy but was so happy to enjoy it vicariously. Keep up the hilarious writing!!!

    • Well, you ARE funny, Wendy and you would love this conference. It’s too bad it’s held only every other year. I swear my laughter could be heard from Dayton to Ottawa 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by!

  • I feel your pain. Why is there not Viagra for the funny bone? I have a whole book of humor essays published, and I haven’t had a funny thought in my head in forever it seems. Perhaps ExLax for the creatively constipated would work, too. I’ll try anything. I think whatever “funny” is comes from an individual’s perspective on the world. Plus, “funny” is just so damn subjective. Yep. It’s tough.

    Visiting from She Writes.

    • Thanks for visiting Jayne. Ha! If only there was some Viagra/ExLax elixor for humour!! One of the keynote speakers, Gina Barreca said, “If you listen hard enough, you don’t have to make it up”. Truth in that…

  • Glad you took the plunge and used the money on your dreams. I think being funny is a hell of a burden. Some people don’t even know they are funny…like the Bloggess. Even when she speaks in front of a crowd she is hilarious and it seems to catch her off guard. Every other year they give the conference? So glad you participated. Now just write and don’t overanalyze. We all have the material living under our roofs, just like Erma did.

    • Thanks Annie! Well, you are one of the funniest writers I know. I am always caught off guard laughing out loud reading your posts!! I loved your last line, it’s true: we all have the material living under our roofs… thank you!
      Yes, April 2014 is the next EBWW. You would love it.

  • I totally know what you mean. If it helps, you were funny while complaining about not being funny. Didn’t you just love the conference! I felt like I was the only one without a book deal or idea. I even had blank business cards. Some networker I made but it doesn’t matter because I had such a great time.

    • Thanks, LaughingMom, for dropping by and for your encouragement! I was scrambling to make up business cards the night before the conference!! I too had a wonderful time and only wish University of Dayton ran it annually. Hopefully we can connect it 2014!

  • Astra, I think you have nothing to be worried about, for you are hysterically funny, my friend! I thoroughly enjoy your posts and think that in earlier comments have even mentioned that your writing style has a Bombeck air! I love, love your writing. But of course, you’re right and like Jayne says, funny is subjective. Annie also hit the nail on the head when she said, “We have the material living our roofs.” Personally, I would have nothing to write about if I didn’t poke fun at my loved ones. So write, lady, write! 🙂

    • Awwww Bella, thanks!! Your encouragement means the world to me. I recall reading Erma years ago (my mom must have had a book lying around) and I remember thinking how much fun she poked at Motherhood. She made it sound fun! Who knew?! I will never be in the same league as Erma but feel incredibly gratified that you think I write in her style. I must be on the right/write track!

  • I think your brave writing in this genre. I am the queen of funny when I am spewing one liners while I am instant messaging but having to write a post and being funny all the way through … yikes. I can’t think about it when I am writing it, and then I realize my humor is twisted and what I think is funny isn’t to someone else. I am glad you went to the conference. I finally took the plunge and am going to one (not an Erma one, but one nonetheless). Just write. don’t think about it. write and write and write, somewhere around line 200 the good stuff will shop up, all the rest was just foreplay.

  • Astra, Erma Bombeck was my mother’s favorite columnist. We always read her. But, I didn’t know there was a conference named after her. Sounds like a great opportunity. Glad you got to go. Hope you share in future posts some of the tips you learned. Would love to know!

    • Hi Monica,
      University of Dayton is Erma’s alma mater. It wasn’t called the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop at first but I think since the ’90’s that is how it is now called. The keynote speakers and presenters were amazing – as were all the participants I must say! It’s only held every other year, though, so will now have to wait until 2014. Yes I too hope I can convey tips that I have learned!

  • Astra, you’re already funny; you just don’t feel funnier right now. I suspect that over time, what you gained at the conference will sink in and you will notice it. You can’t see it now, but we can.

    Conferences of any type always left me feeling like I should be able to return to job/home and create masterpieces. Over time, I realized that what I learned was more subtle than that. The more you write and connect with conference-met friends, the funnier you’ll get and you will begin to see it. Hope my babble makes sense. 8)

  • You are naturally funny all the time! ( and I mean that in a good way) It is so hard when it feels like we are trying to force out a good nugget. Your agonizing about worrying about not being funny is funny. Erma would be proud!

  • There’s nothing like pressure, I have discovered, to destroy inspiration or humour. This post is brilliantly funny, so don’t be so hard on yourself and keep doing what you’re doing. I love your tongue in cheek humour – it definitely works for me!

    • Thank you Elizabeth. I guess it’s not so much that I felt pressure – that was definitely tongue and cheek. I was truly inspired by the conference and the talented group of people (both presenters and participants) that I met. I think I was just extremely envious of them 😉

  • I haven’t been reading your blog for very long, but I love when I see a new post from you in my inbox. I’ve enjoyed your posts that I have read. Keep at it – I think you are naturally funny. As you said, you just have to keep writing. Advice that I think I need to take for my blog. Thanks for making my day lighter.

    • Oh, Anne – thanks for stopping by and commenting. Making someone else’s ‘day lighter’, makes mine a little lighter 🙂 Just stopped by your blog too and made a note to follow more closely!! ~A

  • In your attempt to find “your funny” this was hilarious. I snorted a few times so if that’s any indication …..glad we connected on Twitter.

  • In your attempt to find your “funny”, I thought this was hilarious. I snorted a few times if that could provide any indication on the funny-meter. Agh! and I agree with you, there’s nothing like pressure to stall creativity.

    So glad we connected on Twitter.

  • Astra, after this post I don’t think you need that dose of humor Viagra. Recently I was at a writing conference and was so earnest (possibly overbearingly earnest) at the master class, trying to ask every question I could and wring every bit of understanding out of the session I could. I went home and wrote my first post-conference piece. The master class leader showed up in the comments and said that she had no idea during the workshop that I was so funny and I should sign up immediately for the Erma conference. Talk about humor-interruptus. Now it’s a struggle with each blog post. It takes three drafts to make it sound at least breezy. But I’ve always been afraid of the Erma conference because I just know I’d end up on the “not funny” list. I’m nothing compared to The Bloggess. But my mom would be so proud of me because Erma helped start her every day.

    • Thank you for stopping by, Julie, and for your comments! Aside from all that I came away with, the Erma conference was the “Woodstock of Humor” (can’t take credit for that one!) and well worth the $350 for the keynote addresses themselves! I felt like I should sit in the back row and quietly escape before anyone talked to me, but the spirit of generosity and nonjudgmental support was exhilarating (and contagious)! You should go! As for The Blogesss, she is definitely A-List funny … league of her own!! I read recently that she doesn’t even know how funny she is … that the crowd reaction sometimes takes her by surprise. Amazing.
      Hope you swing by again ~A

  • You are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone. We have all been there, and some have a cot and a p.o.box number. There really isn’t any great mystery. Just write. And when you can’t, write some more.

    • Dani, thanks for your owrds of encouragement. I was in the pressence of such comedic genius that weekend that I was somewhat overwhelmed! The writing I do makes me happy (and hopefully makes a few others happy along the way) and so yes, write, write, write and write some more is my plan!!

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About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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